Tuesday the 17th of July and I leave my small cottage in Calne on the adventure of a lifetime. I had my small suitcase packed with everything I needed – snake venom antidote, a copy of Ray Mear’s ‘Essential Bushcraft’, a swiss army knife made in Wales, a compass made of adamantium, a signal mirror and a box set of the complete series of Lost.
Yes, you guessed it. I was going to the Isle of Man.
The opportunity came about via work and I was going there on business but I would have a few hours in the afternoon and evening of the 17th and 18th to explore part of the island.
However, first things first. Step one was getting a train from Chippenham to Bristol Temple Meads. Chippenham train station is quaint and full of charm. It reminds me a little of the train station that features in one of my favourite films, Oh, Mr Porter, starring Will Hay.
There is even an old Nestle chocolate machine tucked away in the corner, though sadly I don’t think it had been refilled for many years.
I love train journeys. I love sitting by the window, watching the fields roll by as I browse through a copy of Big Jugs, Mature Jugs, Granny D Cups, or some other antique collectables magazine. The journey to Bristol Temple Meads took just under half an hour and I departed the train exuberantly, whistling a specially prepared melody of Disney’s greatest hits as I passed through the turnstile and stepped outside the station.
The architecture of the station’s façade is reminiscent of a building I made with Lego when I was ten years old. A pointless coincidence it may seem, but that’s only because the meaninglessness of the banality of what I am saying is pathetic in its understatement.
I caught a bus to Bristol airport and checked in. I think this is the point where I reveal that I had never flown before. I had never, ever been on an aeroplane or any aircraft of any description. My life just hadn’t panned out that way. And the truth is, it had never interested me that much. For starters, lying on a sandy beach in Spain would be my idea of hell. I would be so bored. I would rather spend a week in Haworth in November, walking the moors and following in the footsteps of Emily Bronte, than a week in Spain in July, sipping enchiladas on the beach.
Or tequilas. Or whatever they are called.
I sat in the departure lounge, staring through the great glass windows at the planes that were departing. There were huge Easy-jet Boeing 757’s, with large jet engines and passenger cabins that could accommodate 250 people. There was a Virgin Airbus A340 with four impressive jet engines that could seat 350 passengers. I looked at my boarding pass. My plane was a Flybe Bombadier Dash. I wondered how many jet engines it would have and looked out of the window, searching for my plane. Ah, there it was!
It looked liked something from an Indiana Jones movie. I was expecting Short Round to jump out, dragging the ark of the covenant behind him. Still, I was excited. I knew we would be going over Wales and I wondered if it would be able to climb high enough to avoid the Sugar Loaf mountain.
I navigated through security (Guard – ‘Take off your shoes please’. Me – ‘What shoes? These are Reeboks!’) and boarded the plane. It appears that not a huge amount of people wanted to go to the Isle of Man. My first clue was when I checked in and the lady behind the counter allocated me a seat but said “You can change it sir, once you are on board.” Basically, everyone was able to sit by a window which was perfect for me. I’ve always been a window person. That’s why I have six in my cottage and I’m planning to collect more. So anyway, I sat by the window. The plane taxied on to the runway and with an unexpected acceleration (nearly as good as my 125cc Piaggio Liberty) we took off.
The flight took just 55 minutes and I spent most of that time staring through the window, dreaming of new worlds, proletarian states and an end of the totalitarian regime in Porthcawl. We flew through the middle of Wales and turned left at Rhyl, touching down at the Isle of Man airport on schedule. A short bus ride later and I stepped out on to the promenade at Douglas.
I had arrived !
END OF PART 1